Both AK and I have lived most of our lives within the same 25-mile radius, so when we get out of town, we’re easily amazed. Last night on the way to my reading at DG Wills in San Diego, we drove down a block of old bungalows.
“I sort of feel like we’re in Northern California right now,” I said.
“I can see that. Berkeley, maybe,” she said.
We turned the corner. “Now I feel like we’re back east somewhere. Maybe it’s the low curbs.”
“I think we’re just not very well traveled, baby. We look around and everything’s exotic,” she said. “By the next block we’ll be in Thailand.”
That’s part of it, but I’m also realizing that one of our collective hobbies is Assessing The Situation. Psychoanalyzing people and relationships, making cultural comparisons, that sort of thing. I’ve always prided myself on my skills in this area of observation—I’m a writer, and I’d like to think I have something more to show for it than fast typing skills (76 WPM, 94% accuracy, according to the online test I just took). But AK has a precision for naming how things are that constantly has me saying, “Yes! That is so true, it’s exactly like that.”
After the reading we met up with AK’s college friend Angela, who took us to her stomping ground, PB, which turns out to stand for Pacific Beach. We stood in line at a bar called Thrusters, which was right across from the Bareback Tavern. AK was like, “Are you sure we’re not in Hillcrest?”
But no, we definitely weren’t. The long skinny bar was oddly well lit, not as crowded as the line implied, pumping with ‘80s hits that were not quite obscure but still rarely heard on “Flashback Lunch” radio segments, and teeming with straight boys. They easily outnumbered the girls, but they were undeniably hetero, and they didn’t look like military guys either.
AK’s outgoing nature made her a great wingman for Angela. She started up a conversation with a gorgeous dreadlocked guy who introduced himself as Jason but later admitted his name was Jihad, explaining that it just creates too much drama to introduce himself as such. She also snagged a preppy-cute but drunk guy named Ryan, who almost immediately tried to start dirty dancing with Angela. Rumble Fish was playing on two big TV screens, and black-and-white images of a young Nick Cage and Matt Dillon alternately flirting with and terrifying Catholic school girls flickered as we danced.
Later we Assessed The Situation.
“That was a really interesting bar,” AK said as we made our way back to Hotel Jim and Kelly. “It’s so different from any queer bar or straight hipster bar, you know?”
“The crowd was really eclectic,” I agreed. “Really straight, but not quite fratty.”
“Just kind of low-key,” said AK.
“But not in like a Midwest kind of way. They were still very Southern California. A bunch of good-looking people who take good care of themselves.”
Angela had said that since moving to San Diego, she’d met a lot of people from the middle of the country, and my theory was that San Diego offered a lot of the appealing qualities of California (namely the weather and the beach) without the weirdness of LA or San Francisco. I think it’s a decent theory, and I am of course partial to LA. Still, it’s nice to travel sometimes.